Assisted suicide on the rise in Switzerland

More people than ever are ending their lives through assisted suicide in Switzerland, most often because they are suffering from cancer.

Assisted suicide on the rise in Switzerland
Dignitas is one of two organizations offering assisted suicide services in Switzerland. Photo: Sebastian Derungs/AFP

In 2014 there were 742 cases of assisted suicide among Swiss residents, according to figures released by the federal statistics office on Tuesday.

That’s a 26 percent rise on the previous year and more than twice the figure in 2009.

In the vast majority of cases the person concerned was suffering from a fatal illness such as cancer (42 percent), neurodegenerative illnesses (14 percent), cardiovascular diseases (11 percent) and illnesses of the musculoskeletal system (10 percent).

Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world where assisted suicide is legal.

There are two organizations offering the service. Exit, the world’s oldest and largest organization for living wills and doctor-assisted suicide, only offers the service to members – it has more than 10,000 – who must be Swiss or have permanent residency in Switzerland.

A second Swiss organization, Dignitas, also provides the service to non-Swiss who live outside the country.

The figures from the federal statistics office also showed that cases of non-assisted suicide have remained stable for the past five years.

Some 1,029 people killed themselves in Switzerland in 2014, with most (754) being men.

While the vast majority (94 percent) of people using assisted suicide to end their lives were over 55, non-assisted suicide occurs across all age groups, said the report, and is primarily carried out by those suffering from depression.

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